Having trouble sleeping? Below are 10 of the most common reasons why with suggestions on how to correct them.
1. Your room isn’t dark enough.
Ideally, your bedroom shouldn’t have any lights on, especially light emitted from a TV or any electronic device. When your eyes are exposed to light during the night, your brain is tricked into thinking it’s time to wake up and reduces the production of melatonin, a hormone released by your pineal gland that causes sleepiness and lowers body temperature. Light emitted by electronic devices is especially troublesome because it mimics sunlight.
2. Exercising too late.
If you exercise within three hours of trying to sleep, you’ll overstimulate your metabolism and raise your heart rate causing restlessness and frequent awakenings throughout the night. Try to exercise in the morning or no later than mid to late afternoon, which will result in sounder sleep.
3. Drinking alcohol too late.
We tend to think of alcohol as a sleep inducer, but it actually interferes with REM sleep, causing you to feel more tired the next morning. Granted, you may feel sleepy after you drink it, but that’s a short-term effect. Here’s a great video at WebMD about alcohol and sleep.
4. Room temperature too warm.
Your body and brain wants to cool down when you sleep, but if your room is too warm you’ll thwart the cool-down process. Having a fan in your room is a good idea because it will keep you cool and produce a consistent level of white noise that will help you fall asleep. Just don’t get too cold, because that will disrupt sleep as well. (You can also try cooling your brain.)
5. Caffeine still in your system.
The average half-life of caffeine is 5 hours, which means that you still have three-quarters of the first dose of caffeine rolling around in your system 10 hours after you drink it. Most of us drink more than one cup of coffee, and many of us drink it late in the day. If you’re going to drink coffee, drink it early.
Though it’s hard not to do, don’t look at your clock when you wake up during the night. In fact, it’s best to turn it around so it’s not facing you. When you habitually clockwatch, you’re training your circadian rhythms the wrong way, and before long you’ll find yourself waking up at exactly 3:15 every night.
7. Getting up to watch TV until you’re sleepy.
This is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, watching TV stimulates brain activity, which is the exact opposite of what you want to happen if your goal is to sleep soundly. Second, the light emitted from the TV is telling your brain to wake up (see #1 above).
8. Trying to problem-solve in the middle of the night.
All of us wake up at times during the night, and the first thing that pops into our heads is a big problem we’re worried about. The best thing you can do is stop yourself from going there and redirect your thoughts to something less stressful. If you get caught up on the worry treadmill, you’ll stay awake much longer.
9. Eating protein too close to bedtime.
Protein requires a lot of energy to digest, and that keeps your digestive system churning away while you’re trying to sleep — bad combination. Better to have a light carbohydrate snack.
10. Smoking before bedtime.
Smokers equate smoking with relaxing, but that’s a neurochemical trick. In truth, nicotine is a stimulant. When you smoke before trying to sleep, you can expect to wake up several times throughout the night; much as you would if you drank a cup of coffee.